The Thomas Kinkade of high fantasy
June 30, 2014 3:01 AM Subscribe
But, look: banging this book on its metaphorical pate with a knobstick for manifold failures of expression and general Thoggism, as I might do with another writer, is no fun. It’s like slapping a puppy. One of the pleasures of Brooks’ writing is that he is so in-the-bone unpretentious; there’s no overweening Jordan-ic or Donaldsonian self-importance here. And (not to abdicate the responsibilities of criticism or anything) there’s a level of response which boils down to: ‘either you enjoy reading sentences like Paranor has fallen! A division of Gnome hunters under the command of the Warlock King has seized the Sword of Shannara!  or you don’t.’Science fiction writer and critic Adam Roberts reviews Terry Brooks' first Shannara Trilogy and ... likes it?
Roberts has little to say about The Elfstones of Shannara, but reading The Wishsong of Shannara realises that Terry Brooks is the Thomas Kinkade of Tolkienesque fantasy:
Perhaps I over-reach myself in trying to identify this as a distinctly American sort of kitsch, but the way religion works in these supernatural Good-versus-Evil yarns does seem to me differently encoded to the way Tolkien's old-school Gothic (in the strict sense) Catholicism operated in his art. Wishsong of Shannara is, like Tolkien, Christian in form without including specific religious content in its worldbuilding (its main through-line and climactic pay-off has to do with the pure and redemptive love between a brother and sister). It reminds me of the way Kinkade painted cottages, landscapes and Disney characters rather than (say) churches or chapels, yet always worked the Christian Ichthus fish-symbol and references to 'John 3:16' into his signature. It's tweeness as transcendence: hollow plastic blue-and-pink models of the Madonna with a light bulb inside; images of the face of Christ discovered in a potato crisp; angelic beings as simpering putti rather than terrifying figures out of Rainer Maria Rilke.
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